Rookwood Weir project verging on a breakthrough
STEADY progress is happening behind the scenes towards realising CQ's long awaited water infrastructure project despite questions and accusations flying thick and fast over progressing Rookwood Weir.
When former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull committed $176 million towards the project in April last year, matching the Queensland Government's $176 million, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk requested the project be run as joint venture - sharing the operating costs and profits.
Since that time, progress for the project (and money changing hands) has depended on the state and federal government bureaucrats working together to sign off on a viable partnership agreement.
Staunch advocate for Rookwood Weir, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry confirmed yesterday that an agreement had been reached.
"My last conversations with Michael McCormack about this was that state and federal bureaucrats had come to a decision and that the State Government had referred this to get more legal advice," Ms Landry said.
"How many solicitors are there working for the State Government? Why do they need to get more legal advice on it?"
The Morning Bulletin understands that lawyers for both the state and federal governments were examining the documentation for the partnership agreement before officially signing off on the deal.
With the CQ community anxious for a resolution on the issue, final signatures were anticipated soon.
Ms Landry expressed her anger yesterday with how drawn out the process of realising Rookwood Weir had become.
"What does frustrate me about this is that the state owns this infrastructure and never, ever before has there been a request from the state, after we've put $176 million on the table, that we have to do half the running costs and then we have to be involved in it, so that has caused a great deal more work ," she said.
"It was supposed to start now and they've delayed it another 12 months and the story that I'm hearing is that they haven't even put out a tender yet for those roads and bridges and that council hasn't started because they haven't received any money or the go ahead.
"Now they need to get moving on this because everyone's had an absolute gutful of it and I won't be backing off. I know that the Queensland LNP are positioned right behind this and if we have to wait for a change of government next year, so be it, but this will go ahead."
Queensland's Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Anthony Lynham responded to Ms Landry's comments saying the people of central Queensland were tired of the Member for Capricornia standing on the sideline throwing rocks about the Rookwood project.
"Early work has been progressing for months, thanks to the $66 million the State Government allocated in the 2018-19 budget," he said.
"We have also allocated $83 million in the 2019-2020 budget for Rookwood."
Dr Lynham said, as anyone who has ever built a house, or done major renovations knows, there's a lot of work that has to be done before the bulldozers turn up on-site.
"This is not just a couple of wheelbarrows of concrete being thrown into the middle of the Fitzroy River. This is a multi-generational project that has to stand the test of time," he said.
"But again, just like building a house, both partners have to sort out the details before the contracts are signed.
"Right now, the State Government is funding the work that's underway and Ms Landry will get to see State Government-funded heavy machinery when the first contract is awarded for the Thirsty Creek Road upgrade works in the next couple of months.
"Clearly, we'd rather have an agreement and have the Commonwealth partnering on the bill as well, but we've stumped up to keep things moving along for the people of Central Queensland."
Shadow Natural Resources Minister Dale Last has raised questions about the $36.5million, which had already been spent by SunWater towards the Rookwood project.
"The State Government continues to play games with its bureaucratic go-slow on Rookwood Weir. The money is on the table and all we have seen is paperwork and no action," Mr Last said.
"It defies belief that $36.5 million has been spent on this project to date and they haven't even moved the earthmoving machinery to the dam site yet.
"At this rate the dam will never get built. Central Queenslanders have waited long enough - it's time for Labor to get on with it.
"Only the LNP has a plan to get on and build the drought proofing dams this state needs now and for the future."
Dr Lynham said Sunwater was undertaking preliminary activities including detailed design, securing necessary approvals, access to land, and early works to provide site access such as road and intersection upgrades.
"Given detailed design has yet to be finalised and reviewed, the contract award date is yet to be determined," he said.
"Construction commencement will be subject to obtaining all the necessary works approvals, acquisition of all necessary project land and the weather."
Dr Lynham confirmed that as of June 2019, Sunwater had expended $36.5 million on the project. He said Gladstone Area Water Board was reimbursed $11.4 million for half the expenses shared with Sunwater on the detailed business case and $600,000 associated with the transitional arrangements following Sunwater being announced in June last year as sole proponent.
Sunwater was reimbursed $11.4 million for its expenditure on the detailed business case when it was joint proponent with the Gladstone Area Water Board and $13.1 million on detailed design, approvals applications, site surveys, engagement with land owners for access, and procurement activities associated with early works packages for the upgrades to Thirsty Creek Road and the Capricorn Highway at Gogango.